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Posts Tagged ‘Patricia Clarkson’

Emily Mortimer

“THE BOOKSHOP” My rating: B

113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“The Bookshop” is an insidious bit of bait and switch.

As it starts out a viewer is confident that he or she is entering familiar territory.  In 1959 a war widow opens a bookshop in  picturesque British coastal town.

So this is going to be a feel-good movie about the power of literature to illuminate gray lives, right? And the lady storeowner will undoubtedly find romance with one of the locals…maybe a handsome fisherman?

Also, our  heroine sells controversial books like Nabokov’s Lolita. So the film will depict the conflict between the local blue noses and everybody else’s right to read, eh?

Uh, no.

Isabel Coixet’s film, adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel, is much darker than that.  Here the common man is something less than noble and the good guys shouldn’t expect to win.

All might have gone swimmingly had Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) not chosen as the site of her new book shop the long-abandoned  Old House, a historic structure fallen on hard times. She buys the place at bargain prices, installs shelves and orders crates of books.

She hires Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the child of local laborers, as her after-school assistant.

And she cultivates the attentions of the  eccentric  town hermit, Edmund (Bill Nighy), a voracious reader living in a slowly decaying mansion. He’s this movie’s version of Miss Havisham.

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Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz

“THE PARTY” My rating: B

71 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With a running of time just over an hour, Sally Potter’s “The Party” plays like a classic one-act play, filled with slamming door exits, fiercely funny wordplay and wonderfully brittle, self-delusional characters.

Potter,  the British creator of films like “Orlando” and “The Tango Lesson,” specializes in gender issues and anti-establishment politics.  “The Party” embraces all that while remaining bitterly hilarious.

In the film’s first shot a frantic looking woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) yanks open her front door, stares momentarily at the visitor on her stoop (the camera takes the vantage point of the guest) and points a pistol at us.

We then flash back 70 minutes.  That same woman, Janet, is busily futzing around the kitchen, preparing to entertain some old friends. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) sits in the living room, wine glass in hand, deejaying old blues and experimental jazz LPs. He has the look of a  shell-shocked combat vet.

One by one the visitors arrive and we gradually learn what the celebration is about.  After years of struggle as a party faithful, Janet has been named head of the country’s Ministry of Health. She is constantly interrupted by congratulatory phone calls, including several heavy-breathing text messages from an unidentified lover.

The deliciously catty April (Patricia Clarkson) is allegedly Janet’s best bud. As an American she takes a withering outsider’s view of Brit politics…but then she’s withering on just about every subject. Asked to evaluate if Janet’s new job has transformed her in any way, April observes that her friend now is “slightly ministerial in a post-modernist, post-feminist sort of way.”

She’s even harder on her boyfriend, a blissed-out, New Age-y German life coach named Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) who so adores her that he puts up with a constant stream of abuse. April announces that she intends to dump Gottfried that very night: “Tickle an aroma therapist and you find a fascist.”

 

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“ONE DAY” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on Aug. 19)

108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

My cynical side is scolding me for enjoying “One Day” so much.

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in "One Day"

My poetic/amorous side is telling my cynical side to take a flying leap.

This is a chick flick with a Ph.D. — funny, sad, insightful and swooningly romantic, perfectly acted by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess and evoking universal emotions about love and friendship.

Moreover, it was directed by Lone Sherfig, creator of one of my favorite films of recent years — “Italian for Beginners” — as well as the Oscar-nominated “An Education.”

Yeah, it’s predicated on a gimmick. Every episode in this Brit saga — there are 20 of them — takes place on July 15 in successive years. (David Nicholls adapted his own novel for the screen.)

We meet Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess) on July 15, 1988 as they celebrate their college graduation by partying all night with mutual friends. As dawn breaks they end up in her apartment…but all they do is talk (at least I think that’s all they do).

They’re an odd couple. Dex is a mediocre student but a wildly successful social animal. He’s a garrulous charmer, shallow but irresistible.

Emma is the dorky brain. Clearly she’s never enjoyed Dexter’s party life. Her look — shapeless dresses, Doc Marten boots and huge glasses — and her self-deprecating humor suggest a graceless young woman with little confidence in the romance department.

And yet over the next two decades their lives will be entwined in ways both swooning and heartbreaking.

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